Gareth Southgate speaks ahead of Poland clash
England manager Gareth Southgate has urged his players to stay concentrated and avoid complacency as they face their biggest test of 2022 World Cup qualifying so far.
The Three Lions take on Robert Lewandowski’s Poland in Warsaw on Tuesday night, with their 100% record in Group I at stake.
England are in a commanding position at the halfway point of the qualifying campaign, sitting five points clear of the Poles in second with five wins from five, although the hosts have won their last two.
Southgate’s men have followed up victories over San Marino, Albania and Tuesday’s opponents in March with back-to-back 4-0 wins against Hungary and Andorra this month, but the England boss has called for professionalism in a potentially partisan atmosphere in the Polish capital.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Southgate said: “We have to approach the game like we did the other night. We know that keeping possession can be a big factor in managing those situations [with the crowd] but the flow of the game will be different.
“We are playing against a level of opposition who I think are in a better moment. They have won their last two games and they have some good footballers in their team who will keep the ball better than Hungary were able to on the night against us.
“So the detail of how we press and how we defend will have to be spot on.”
Everton goalkeeper and England no.1 Jordan Pickford echoed that sentiment, adding: “You have to be focussed. As a goalkeeper, you can hear it a lot more clearly but as the manager said, it is about us playing our football and silencing them to play our best football.
“It is difficult but it is something I have learned and concentrate on – not to focus on it.”
Southgate also insisted that his team selection could waver from the XI selected for the comfortable win over Hungary in Budapest on Thursday, adding: “You could argue over what is our strongest team. The team who played in Hungary, we were able to rest those guys after the game but there is still huge competition for places in this group.
“It is not as straight forward as saying ‘we won that game and this team will go again and give the same level of performance’.
“The challenges of the game in Poland will be different, the rhythm of the game can be different, the problems on the night can be different, so we can’t just drift into the match. We have to make sure our levels of concentration are really high.”